Much More Than a Negation of Religion: A Qualitative Exploration of the Diversity of Non-Religious Identities in England and Wales

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Abstract

Census data suggests that around 14 million people in England and Wales state that they have no religion and recent survey evidence suggests the number could be even higher. Drawing on evidence from focus group discussions with people who broadly self-identify with the descriptor non-religious, this article examines the diversity of their non-religious identities and the interfaces with religion and equalities law. Through analysis of the identity narratives of people who see themselves as non-religious, the findings suggest that people use various conceptualisations of non-religion, belief and spirituality to describe their identities. Moreover, non-religious people also reported experiences unfair treatment and discrimination based on their identities. The term non-religious can be problematic; it can be homogenising and limit people to identifying themselves in terms of the negation of religion. The findings highlight different non-religious identities and in doing so bring into question the conceptions, both popular and official, of the category of non-religious and the wider discourse of non-religion. It can be questioned whether the negative label of being non-religious is fit for purpose. There is a need for a new vocabulary to articulate, describe and understand non-religious identities and experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)(In-press)
JournalJournal of Contemporary Religion
Volume(In-press)
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jun 2019

Fingerprint

Religion
spirituality
group discussion
evidence
Negation
England
Wales
equality
vocabulary
experience
census
discrimination
narrative
Law
discourse

Keywords

  • Belief
  • Identity
  • No religion
  • Non-religious
  • Religion
  • Secularism

Cite this

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title = "Much More Than a Negation of Religion: A Qualitative Exploration of the Diversity of Non-Religious Identities in England and Wales",
abstract = "Census data suggests that around 14 million people in England and Wales state that they have no religion and recent survey evidence suggests the number could be even higher. Drawing on evidence from focus group discussions with people who broadly self-identify with the descriptor non-religious, this article examines the diversity of their non-religious identities and the interfaces with religion and equalities law. Through analysis of the identity narratives of people who see themselves as non-religious, the findings suggest that people use various conceptualisations of non-religion, belief and spirituality to describe their identities. Moreover, non-religious people also reported experiences unfair treatment and discrimination based on their identities. The term non-religious can be problematic; it can be homogenising and limit people to identifying themselves in terms of the negation of religion. The findings highlight different non-religious identities and in doing so bring into question the conceptions, both popular and official, of the category of non-religious and the wider discourse of non-religion. It can be questioned whether the negative label of being non-religious is fit for purpose. There is a need for a new vocabulary to articulate, describe and understand non-religious identities and experiences.",
keywords = "Belief, Identity, No religion, Non-religious, Religion, Secularism",
author = "Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor and Paul Weller and Kingsley Purdam",
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N2 - Census data suggests that around 14 million people in England and Wales state that they have no religion and recent survey evidence suggests the number could be even higher. Drawing on evidence from focus group discussions with people who broadly self-identify with the descriptor non-religious, this article examines the diversity of their non-religious identities and the interfaces with religion and equalities law. Through analysis of the identity narratives of people who see themselves as non-religious, the findings suggest that people use various conceptualisations of non-religion, belief and spirituality to describe their identities. Moreover, non-religious people also reported experiences unfair treatment and discrimination based on their identities. The term non-religious can be problematic; it can be homogenising and limit people to identifying themselves in terms of the negation of religion. The findings highlight different non-religious identities and in doing so bring into question the conceptions, both popular and official, of the category of non-religious and the wider discourse of non-religion. It can be questioned whether the negative label of being non-religious is fit for purpose. There is a need for a new vocabulary to articulate, describe and understand non-religious identities and experiences.

AB - Census data suggests that around 14 million people in England and Wales state that they have no religion and recent survey evidence suggests the number could be even higher. Drawing on evidence from focus group discussions with people who broadly self-identify with the descriptor non-religious, this article examines the diversity of their non-religious identities and the interfaces with religion and equalities law. Through analysis of the identity narratives of people who see themselves as non-religious, the findings suggest that people use various conceptualisations of non-religion, belief and spirituality to describe their identities. Moreover, non-religious people also reported experiences unfair treatment and discrimination based on their identities. The term non-religious can be problematic; it can be homogenising and limit people to identifying themselves in terms of the negation of religion. The findings highlight different non-religious identities and in doing so bring into question the conceptions, both popular and official, of the category of non-religious and the wider discourse of non-religion. It can be questioned whether the negative label of being non-religious is fit for purpose. There is a need for a new vocabulary to articulate, describe and understand non-religious identities and experiences.

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KW - Religion

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